In 2015, Erica Baker did the impossible: she made a spreadsheet go viral.
Baker, an engineer at Google at the time, created the spreadsheet with her fellow Googlers to keep track of everyone’s salary. But what started as an experiment in radical transparency among colleagues soon took on a life of its own. People began sharing the spreadsheet, adding to it and organizing it to find out whether compensation was truly equitable across genders, races, and demographics at the company.
Google didn’t love it, and Baker, who was featured on WIRED’s Next List, is now an engineer at Slack. But the spreadsheet set in motion an important conversation about equality in the tech industry. In order to achieve it, Silicon Valley needs to share its data.
‘If you’re a woman and you think you’re qualified, you’re likely qualified.’
In some ways, that’s already started. Lately, tech companies have started publishing their company’s demographics to show how many men, women, and people of color hold various positions. But on stage at the 2016 WIRED Business Conference today, Baker had a clear message: “Share more.”
Salary information is one data point that’s typically kept secret, but it’s not the only one. “Show promotion numbers. Show retention numbers. Show the number of people who have attempted to sue for harassment,” Baker said. “That would give a better idea of what a company is like to work for.”
Of course, it’s not just about the numbers. It’s also about names. The number-one excuse tech leaders often give for the lack of diversity at their companies is that they can’t find anyone to hire. That includes recruiting new board members.
Lack of diversity on boards is one reason why Sukhinder Singh Cassidy launched The BoardList, which she describes as “a private LinkedIn” to connect companies seeking female board members with female leaders.
Women can gain a spot on the BoardList if a CEO, venture capitalist, or other business leader nominates them. Already roughly 1,100 women have registered on the site.
According to Cassidy, who also appeared onstage at the WIRED Business Conference today, one major obstacle to achieving gender diversity in the board room is the fact that women automatically assume they’re not qualified. In order for Silicon Valley culture to change, she said, that mindset must change, too.
“If you’re a woman and you think you’re qualified, you’re likely qualified,” Cassidy said. “If you’re a man, and you think you’re qualified, you may be qualified.”
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